Sunday, March 22, 2009

The true north strong and free

Dear Don Cherry,

I used to be a fan.

A long time ago, I read and enjoyed your autobiography, no matter how poorly it was written at times ... misspellings, grammar issues, sentence structure ... the whole nine yards.

As I've grown up, however, I've realized you're the blustering fool about whom Shakespeare so often wrote.

Yours is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

You grandstand the notion Canadians are the best and the toughest hockey players in the world. Certainly, our great nation produces many of the best and most of the toughest.

Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin may prove otherwise, however.

But that is not my argument. Tonight, I watched Fifth Estate, our Canadian news magazine.

On this night, CBC looked into fighting the game -- is it a source of entertainment? or is a potentially fatal spectacle the game we both love is better off to leave behind?

Don Sanderson, of course, erased the notion of 'potential' earlier this season when he died during a rec-league scrap in Ontario.

But that is not my argument.

Through the course of the show, you said, 'hockey is the only thing Canada is known for in the world.'

This is my argument.

For someone who claims to be so incredibly proud of his country, you forget - in one simple sentence - all of the wonderful things this country has been, has done, is, does, will be, and will do.

As one friend said: We're also known for maple syrup, beavers, curling, good beer, ketchup chips and for supplying the toughest shock troops on the side of the Allies in WWI and WWII."

Lest we forget the wonderful work our troops are doing in Afghanistan, to ensure the American mess is cleaned up. What are up to in casualties now? 110?

Lest we forget the wonderful work being done in medicine, the arts, scientific research.

Lest we forget the Tragically Hip, Bif Naked, Finger Eleven ... all internationally acclaimed recording artists.

Lest we forget the hospitality for which we are known, our people opening their doors to strangers for several days in September of 2001, when they needed safe haven because planes around the world were grounded.

But even the fools in Shakespearean works were respected as subtle teachers, their true message hidden in their words.

My fear, however, lies more in your desire to garner ratings than it is to truly teach.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stop the presses ... should we?

Without access to information, we stand to be a society foundering in a sea of ignorance.

We sat around the bar table the other night, feasting on wings and beer, commiserating with our brother who had just lost his job.

He was a number to a man who didn't know his name and had probably never read one of his stories.

I am familiar. It happened to me not quite three years ago.

There we sat, as our brother fought back tears, promising to land in the business somewhere.

But where?

We are surrounded by media. TV, radio, internet news sites, billboards screaming messages at us ...

It is the ink-stained wretches, the scribes, the penmen whose jobs are dropping like flies in a cloud of Raid.

Where do they turn?

There may come a day when we no longer have a newspaper to hold in one hand, a coffee in the other.

Future journalists may never know the joy of hearing those turbines chug into gear for the first run, the thrill of tearing down the stairs and yelling 'STOP THE PRESS!'

And as we were on our second or third to last call of the night, the late guy came into the bar with a copy of Final ... one for each of us.

I smelled the fresh ink and felt the grit of the ink on my fingertips ... for the first time in three years, and maybe for the last time ever.

And it was my turn to fight back tears.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another story from the glory days

Bob Gainey, the curmudgeonly Montreal Canadiens legend/GM/coach, made the occasional visit to Kamloops to watch his son Steve play.

Steve was a solid winger with the WHL Blazers and as personable as they come. He enjoyed the opportunity to talk about his team and never once shied away from the tape recorder.

It sometimes was a daunting task, wondering if the 17- or 18-year-old I asked to interview would be able to express himself ... nay, had the confidence to do so.

'Twas my rookie year in the Loops and Scott Cruikshank, now of the Calgary Herald Flames beat, was penning for the Kamloops Daily News.

One night he says to me, 'you know, Bob is here and he loves to talk about Steve.'

Sweet! Beyond a brief moment with Don Hay, it was my first brush with NHLness during a hockey-writing career that started out with a glorified rec league in Newfoundland.

So I scope him out on the other side of the press box at what was then known as Riverside Coliseum.

Anyone who is familiar with Bob also knows he doesn't smile much. Perma-frown.

In this instance, I sensed it was more of a glare.

'Hi, Bob, I'm Angela with Kamloops This Week. Do you have a minute?'

'Not really. I'm trying to watch the game.'

'Oh, I just wanted to ask you a few questions about Steve.'

'Stephen is capable of speaking about himself.'

With my tail tucked firmly between my legs, I made my way back to our side of the press box, where upon Cruikshank asked me how it went.

I gave him a Gainey glare and he started laughing.

'Welcome to Kamloops.'

I believe I had been hazed.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

These dreams

Demons in my head
Can't open the next door
Fighting for my next breath

Can't scream, cry or yell

Light of day breaks
Tomorrow is upon me
This battle is over

The war is just begun.